Obama hits back at Republicans on gas prices

LARGO, Maryland Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:51pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama talks to a crowd about American energy at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland, March 15, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks to a crowd about American energy at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland, March 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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LARGO, Maryland (Reuters) - President Barack Obama accused Republican presidential candidates on Thursday of playing election politics over high gasoline prices, and mocked them for resisting development of alternative energy sources.

Obama, whose re-election bid could be harmed by voter resentment and opponents' criticisms over increasing pain at the pump, insisted there was no "quick fix" or "silver bullet" for high gas prices.

"And anyone who tells you that isn't really looking for a solution -- they're trying to ride the political wave of the moment," he told cheering students at campaign-style rally at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland.

But even as Obama appealed for public patience, U.S. and British officials told Reuters the president and visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron had discussed the possible release of strategic oil reserves to help knock down fuel costs, that also threaten to undercut economic recovery.

Obama reiterated his view that the latest spike in oil prices was mostly due to Middle East unrest and touted his "all of the above" energy strategy of boosting domestic production and investing in green energy as longer-term solutions.

He ridiculed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's campaign promise to reduce the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon if he won the White House, calling it just a "cute bumper-sticker line."

"They start acting like we've got a magic wand and we will give you cheap gas forever if you just elect us," Obama said.

Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, has mocked Obama for proposing a program for eventual development of an algae-based fuel. Republican presidential hopefuls have accused Obama of tying up energy projects in red tape and not doing enough to open areas for drilling.

"Lately, we've heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of folks running for a certain office - who shall go unnamed - they've been talking down new sources of energy," Obama said. "Why is it that somebody who wants to help lead the country would be ignoring the facts?"

Calling his Republican critics "stuck in the past," he compared them to the "flat Earth society," who when Christopher Columbus set sail in search of the New World would not believe that the world was round.

(Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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